MOUNT GILEAD — The Class of 2020 is facing unique circumstances.
Seniors at Morrow County’s five high schools continue with others across Ohio in distance learning, with last week’s news that classroom teaching would not resume this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents, teachers and students are making the best of it and trying to make good memories despite the fact that local graduation ceremonies are up in the air.
On Monday evening, April 20 at 8:20 p.m., many schools took part in lighting up their football fields as a show of support to the seniors. They were lit up for 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
Highland High School is one of many districts to create a Facebook page in honor of its graduating class. It’s called “Adopt a Senior — Highland Scots 2020.”
It was the brainchild of Jennifer Brooks, who said: “I’m just another parent in the community, seniors of the class of 2020 have gone through a lot. This was their year, they should be celebrated. So I started this page in hopes that other people will celebrate a senior by adopting them.
Brooks added, “It can be as simple as purchasing something small off their Amazon wish list. The point is to celebrate a senior.”
Parents and family members are trying to make this a memorable time — despite the challenges.
One of those, Bonnie Young, offered an idea.
“Have the ceremony on the football field like they used to and set those chairs six feet apart with immediate family and live stream it so other family and friends can watch,” she said.
County school districts are still sorting out their options for graduation and other events, including proms, scheduled in late April or May.
Meanwhile, students also found creative says to express themselves. The Mount Gilead High School recorded a “Quarantine Medley” and posted it to YouTube.
Local schools are saluting their seniors with profiles and photos on social media. Cardington held a parade April 22 to honor their upcoming graduates.
On April 22, staff members from Cardington-Lincoln Middle School and Elementary School organized a community-wide parade in support of students and families who have been separated from school since March 13.
Smiling faces, waves, and supportive signs lined the parade route which started at the high school parking lot, and the 45-car caravan passed through nearly every stretch of road in the village limits. Ann Marie Thomas, Middle School Dean of Students, spearheaded the event with the assistance of Jennifer Zierden, Middle School Principal, Jordan Nelson, Middle School social worker, and Officer Jason Kiefer, the School Resource Officer.
Superintendent Brian Petrie said, “In my 18 years in Cardington, there have been many special memories, but this was one of the most moving experiences of my career. It was not just a parade, it was a way to spread healing joy. It was a way for students and parents to say thank you to the staff, and it was a way for our staff to say thank you to the community for the support.”
Some parents want more, as in a traditional commencement ceremony.
“Can they still not wear their gowns go to ball field stay six feet apart and still walk across stage to get their diploma, and have it recorded online for people to see? People handing them out can wear gloves and masks,” one woman wrote on Facebook.
Other parents, teachers and students shared similar sentiments, yearning for a return to normalcy. But the Class of 2020 will look back on this as anything but a normal senior year.
Correspondent Evelyn Long contributed to this story.